Title: Like a Little Lost Puppy
Prompt: Rescue
Challenge: Prompt Bingo on LJ
Summary: [Joker, implied Gray / Alice] Gray takes in yet another stray. Nightmare mocks. And Julius finds the situation all too familiar.
Rating: PG
Author's Notes: Just a wee bit cracky, inspired by a comment from harroe

. o . o . o . o . o . o .

It was no secret that Gray had a soft spot for all things small and cute. Nor was it a secret that he also had a penchant for taking pity on the animals that had been caught unaware by the abrupt change to Winter. The innards of Clover Tower were abuzz with all manner of small, twitchy-nosed, scurrying, fuzzy creatures that he had picked up and brought in from the cold.

True, Gray knew better than to entertain thoughts of keeping his finds for any length of time beyond the April Season. Wild animals were meant to remain in the wild, after all. And, if he were to be completely honest with himself, Gray knew he simply had no time to look after a pet let alone the multitude of animals he'd found stuck out in the snow. To try to keep them for any longer than Winter's end would be a foolish move on his part.

Even so...

"Ah, wait, sit. Down." Gray watched the tiny, brown puppy squirm in glee, too excited to obey the command, before reaching down to gently tap it on the rump. A fond smile lined his lips as the pup finally sat, tail wagging furiously. "Good girl."

Rubbing the puppy behind its floppy ears in reward, the ex-assassin knelt beside it. Setting out the small bowl of dog food he'd brought and watching as it was attacked with gusto by his small companion.

"Now," he told the puppy, reaching into a coat pocket. "It would be troublesome if you managed to get lost wandering about the Tower, so just in case..."

He trailed off, lifting a small makeshift collar into view. It wasn't the best solution, of course. But until he managed to secure a proper dog pen he needed something to alert staff as to where the pup belonged so no one would toss it back outside in the cold by mistake.

Feeling rather pleased with himself, Gray had just finishing tying it on when Nightmare came bursting into the room, Julius following sharply on his heels.

"You're being unnecessarily stubborn, Clockmaker, and you know it! Gray, listen to this, I-urk!" Nightmare froze mid-complaint, eyebrows shooting up impressively high into his hairline as he spotted the furry intruder. "What's that?"

Julius snorted softly. His arms crossed over his chest. "Another stray, Skink?"

"It followed me." Gray straightened up calmly, Doing his best to ignore the way the puppy pawed adorably at his shoes at the sudden influx of people into its room, he met Julius' gaze squarely. "And I wasn't about to leave it outside to freeze."

"But, it's a dog." The incubus wrinkled his nose in distaste, before puffing up indignantly. "You'd better not be planning to stick it near all the cats you've already got holed up in my quarters! We won't stand for it!"

"It's all well and good if you wish to bring these things in out of the cold. But, surely, there's a better method to it than to bring it back here." Giving an annoyed sigh at Nightmare's outburst, Julius shook his head slowly. Then paused. His eyes narrowing in on the animal in question. "Is that one of Alice's hair ribbons-"

"No." The response came just a touch too fast; and, watching his subordinate for a long silent moment, Nightmare's lips twitched.

"Hmm, It looks rather similar..." Squatting down, Nightmare extended a hand towards the puppy who crept forward to sniff it curiously. "Did you give him a name as well?"

"It's a she." Gray replied automatically, not quite noticing the taunting stretch of Nightmare's grin until it was too late.

"A she?" There was a low, sly chuckle and the puppy quickly scampered backwards towards the safety of Gray's shoes. Rising slowly to his feet, Nightmare gave a wide grin, speculating airily. "Supposedly, they say it's good to name animals after someone you're fond of because that way you'll be together all the time. So perhaps... Did you name it Ali-"

"Don't you have work to do Nightmare-sama?"

"I finished it! Most of it!" Pushing himself to his feet, Nightmare straightened up proudly. "And don't dodge the question!"

"I wasn't dodging the question because I haven't given her a name." Gray remarked calmly. "After the snow melts I'm going to make sure she leaves the Tower just like everything else."

"So you say, Skink." Julius spoke up, glancing towards Gray with a disbelieving look. "But, instead of working to find homes for these animals, you just pick them up. Then proceed to feed them and name them and-"

"I didn't name her." Gray repeated insistently.

"Oh? So you're saying you don't want to go on long walkies with Alice?" Nightmare tilted his head in mock innocence, giving a pointed look towards the puppy. His shoulders shook with poorly suppressed laughter as he pressed further. "Or have her curl up beside you on a cold evening?"

The clockmaker's exasperated sigh didn't quite mask his small snort of not-quite-amusement as Gray turned to give his employer a hard look, scandalized. The barest hints of a blush colored the flustered ex-assassin's cheeks.

"That's not-"

"Or have her give you wet sloppy kisses to wake you up in the morning?"

"Nightmare-sama!"

"Well, if you're not interested, Alice could always come play with me." Nightmare leaned down, trying to coax the puppy back over to him. "What do you say, Alice? Why don't you leave that meanie Gray and come play with with your Uncle Nightmare? There's a good-"

"What are you doing?"

And, this was scene walked in upon by Alice, the real one. A small stack of documents clutched defensively in her hands as she looked at each of the Role Holders in turn. Her eyes narrowed suspiciously

"Er..." Looking distinctly contrite, Nightmare cleared his throat. Hastily casting about for something to say that wouldn't involve his foot being on the receiving end of one of Alice's vicious stompings, he decided to go with the obvious. "Look! Gray got a puppy!"

"Nightmare-sama, I've already said I'm not keeping-"

"Aww... It's so cute." The denial was interrupted by Alice's happy coo as, true to form, she took in the soft bundle of fur and paws with a sweet smile. Shifting the papers in her arms, she knelt down to stroke the puppy softly behind its ears before glancing back up. "What's its name?"

Nightmare managed to keep from laughing. Barely. While Gray quickly looked away.

"We hadn't decided on one." Shifting to place a hand on his hip, Julius gestured towards little, tail wagging nuisance and Gray in turn. "I suggest you take naming the thing up with him. And for heaven's sake don't let that useless Caterpillar name it."

"Hey!"

Indifferent to Nightmare's indignant cry, Julius turned to leave. His lips quirked with the barest hints of a smile. "We certainly don't need two lost puppies staying in this tower."